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RSL has sights set on first U.S. Open Cup semifinal berth

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake's Ned Grabavoy leaps for the ball as Real Salt Lake hosts Charleston Battery in the US Open Cup Wednesday June 12, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

By Christopher Kamrani

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 25 2013 02:36PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:34PM

Sandy • They’re inching closer toward a chance to play for another cup.

Should Real Salt Lake move past the visiting Carolina RailHawks in Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at Rio Tinto Stadium, the franchise would find itself in foreign territory.

RSL has never advanced to the Open Cup semifinals. They made it to the quarterfinals in 2006 and again in 2011, but have never moved into the final four, with a shot to put another gem in their crown.

"I just think that our intent this year is to win it," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "There’s no kind of half goals about being the furthest that we’ve ever been."

Simple as that.

Real Salt Lake takes on a Carolina side that advanced to the Open Cup quarterfinals by beating Chivas USA 3-1 in the fourth round on June 12. The RailHawks, the 2011 NASL regular-season champions, dispatched the L.A. Galaxy 2-0 in the third round on May 29.

After having to outlast the Atlanta Silverbacks and Charleston Battery in back-to-back extra-time matches, RSL is focused on a clean start against a motivated and talented lower-tier organization.

Midfielder Khari Stephenson won an Open Cup title with Kansas City in 2004. The Jamaican international who has scored two goals in the last two Open Cup matches for RSL said it’s a mixed bag of expectations in this tournament.

"You never know what kind of team they’ll show up with," he said. "It could be a bad team with a great day or it could be a good team with a bad day."

Ned Grabavoy won an Open Cup championship a year after Stephenson in 2005, raising the crown with the Galaxy. The opportunity to move onto the semifinals would mean another match at Rio Tinto Stadium. The winner of Wednesday’s match will host the winner of FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers on Aug. 7.

"This club has made it pretty clear that this is something that we’re taking very serious," Grabavoy said. "We’ve shown that over the first few games."

Grabavoy said RSL can’t allow the opposition to dictate the pace of the match, adding it must disrupt the shape of Carolina from the very first whistle.

"Without question, we want to bring the energy anytime we’re at home, and really make the other team feel uncomfortable from the very beginning and never let them into the game," he said.

Kreis said the RailHawks have an effective attack with two forwards and two offensive-minded wingers who will press the RSL backline.

"It’s a home game for us and the most important thing is how we handle ourselves, what type of attitude and spirit we come out with, because we’ve seen over the last two matches in the Open Cup, we haven’t quite got that solved, so I’m hoping that the third time’s a charm," he said.

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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